Who Was The Greatest Player Of The Past Decade? A Round Table Discussion
Ronaldo and Zidane
After the enormous success of the last two debates and the interest shown by each participants and other members of Bleacher Report, I just could not resist the greed of arranging another round table discussion.
The topic this time was on who was the greatest footballer to have plied his trade in the past decade. While there some many similar choices and some of the track choices too, it was no doubt a good debate.
In the following slide-shows we take a look into whom the participants had chosen as their best player of the decade. Your views and opinions are welcomed and will be sincerely appreciated. Hope you enjoy this one as the last two debates.
Introducing the participants:
Callum D' Souza - King of B/R
Andrew Jordan - Renowned B/R writer
Roberto Alvarez Galloso - Analyst of B/R a good friend
Ivan Soldo - Italian Serie A talisman and AC Milan Featured columnist
Tim Fontenault - AC Milan Featured Columnist
Asad Siddiqui - Arsenal supporter
Chris Forero - Another Arsenal and Colombian football team supporter
Manuel Traquete - La Liga superstar and Barcelona Featured Columnist
Adam Hirshfield - An easily approachable B/R staff and Featured Columnist
Samrin Hasib - Bayern Munich Featured Columnist
Dave K - A vocal Arsenal supporter
Kaustav Bose - Liverpool's Featured Columnist and die-hard fan
Saura Bhattacharjee - Chelsea Featured Columnist and producer of this debate.
Have fun !!!!
Who Is Your Greatest Footballer Of The Past Decade?
Callum D' Souza
I will say Zinedine Zidane is the greatest player of the last decade.
Roberto Alvarez- Galloso
Lionel Messi in my opinion has to be the greatest footballer of the past decade.
The Italian and AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini.
We have been blessed with many incredible players in the past decade, but I’m going to go off the map a little bit and say the best player of the decade is Real Madrid and Spanish national team goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas.
My greatest footballer of the decade would French football wizard Zinedine Zidane.
My best player of the decade has to be Ronaldinho.
It has to be Lionel Messi.
I’m going with Ronaldinho, in a narrow decision over Thierry Henry.
My best footballer of the last decade is the bald-headed Brazilian genius, Ronaldo.
Depending upon the question, I can come up with different answers. Zinedine Zidane was, in my opinion, far and away the greatest player to play in the past 10 years.
But it captures only a tiny part of his prime. If we’re looking players who totally and utterly dominated for part of the decade, then the discussion has to entertain a good deal more players.
Oliver Kahn had runs when it looked like it would be impossible to put the ball past him. Despite being a hardcore Gunner, I freely admit that Roy Keane, when he was flying around the middle of the park, could single-handedly influence a match like few before him.
Ronaldo was called the “Phenomenon” for a reason. More recently, both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have had years where their abilities clearly outstrip everybody else in the world.
Ultimately, however, I believe that this question has more to do with what you have done over the ten years than in any one or two.
And with that definition, I can only make one choice: Thierry Henry.
Believe me, I tried as hard as I could to avoid making the homer pick, but when I look at what he did over the past 10 years, I can’t rate anybody above him.
There is no one great player in my eyes, however, I would still go for Lionel Messi.
My greatest player of the last decade has to be the one whose name in Portuguese means "Little Ronaldo". By that I mean the all-smiles Ronaldinho.
Why Do You Think He Is The Greatest?
Callum D' Souza
The man was a goalscoring genius. Not only that the Frenchman boasted so many admirable traits, flair, speed, strength. What he achieved is monumental and Henry has to the greatest player of the last decade.
He really brought the French national team to the next level, and was fantastic for Real Madrid. He led France to a Euro 2000 title and in his final ever competition, he led France to a World Cup final.
Roberto Alvarez- Galloso
The reasons are many
A. 50 International Caps
B. 13 International Goals
C. His numerous participation with the Argentine National Football/Soccer Team and FC Barcelona which resulted in the following:
La Liga titles (3),
UEFA European Supercup,
Copa Del Rey,
UEFA Champions League,
Spanish Supercups (3),
FIFA World Cup Crown (1),
2010 FIFA World Player Award
Another reason why Messi is the greatest is that he is the total opposite of Maradona. Messi is a player who is a professional off and on the field who is well behaved.
He does not hold any grudges, does not insult the press, and was the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador to Haiti when that country suffered the worst earthquake in the beginning of 2010.
Paolo Maldini had probably the greatest career in history of football players!
Just look at how many individual awards and titles he won!
Also everybody need to look at his numbers and soon they will realize how big that player was!
He was a big name not just on the field but also outside of the field!
I have never seen so many opponent players talking so respectful about Maldini.
For example, probably his biggest rival, Javier Zanetti was really sad to see Paolo retiring from football and Zanetti also spoke about Maldini as a fantastic player and person!
But of course only rare people will say that defender should be the greatest player of the past decade. We all know that this award of being “greatest” definitely deserves midfielder or striker.
I am an AC Milan fan but trust me that doesn’t has to do with choosing Maldini as the greatest!
But if I have to choose midfielder or striker, my vote would go for Zidane or Kaka, because I enjoyed watching those two! Zidane with amazing technical skills while Kaka was just so fast and unstoppable!
This subject is always going to cause issue, as this past decade in particular has been filled with incredible stars, but few have been as successful as Iker Casillas.
Casillas won everything in the first decade of the 21st century. He was a two-time UEFA Champions League winner, four-time Spanish League winner, three-time Spanish Super Cup and one-time UEFA Super Cup winner, and he won the the Intercontinental Cup.
Those were only his club honors. Let us not forget that he was also the captain of Spain when they won UEFA Euro 2008 and, most recently, the FIFA World Cup 2010.
Casillas led Spain on an incredible run from 2006-2009. After exiting the World Cup in 2006 at the Round of 16, Spain lost to Romania in October.
After that, they won or drew every match they played from the end of 2006 to the end of June 2009, a streak of 35 matches that was ended by a 2-0 loss to the United States in the FIFA Confederations Cup.
His personal trophy case is filled as well. Casillas has been honored with many awards, including: UEFA Team of the Year three times, UEFA Euro 2008 Team of the Tournament, FIFPro World XI twice, IFFHS Best Goalkeeper twice, FIFA.com Team of the Year, LFP Best Goalkeeper, FIFA World’s Best Goalkeeper, and the 2010 FIFA World Cup Golden Gloves and All Star Team.
Casillas has long been one of the most dominant goalkeepers of all time. Despite Barcelona being clearly the best team in Spain, it is hard to argue that Casillas is not better than Victor Valdes.
The only other goalkeeper that has come close to Casillas in the past decade is Gianluigi Buffon. However, since 2006, his career has declined and he is no longer the keeper he used to be. However, this is not just about goalkeepers.
My choice came down to two players: Casillas and Ronaldinho. It is very difficult to pick between a goalkeeper and an outfielder. They are the best goalkeeper and outfielder of the decade, no doubt, but in terms of being THE best, Casillas has Ronaldinho beat.
Ronaldinho may have the heart of young and old alike for his flashy ball skills and his incredible goals (notably goals such as his bike against Villareal or his standing still goal against Chelsea in the Champions League), but Casillas is the best player in the world at preventing just those situations.
Look at 2010 alone, when in the World Cup he recorded five clean sheets, gave up only two goals, stopped a critical penalty against Paraguay in a 1-0 win, and stopped Arjen Robben twice on two separate one on one opportunities in the Final.
Those two stops opened the door for teammate Andres Iniesta’s goal in the 116th minute to win the World Cup for the first time in Spain’s history.
No team can be successful without a great goalie. Look at the best teams in the world: Barcelona, Inter Milan, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Chelsea, and Arsenal, they all have world class goalkeepers.
If you are in charge of a team, you dream of a player as good as Iker Casillas. There is nobody like him between the posts.
It may not be the most conventional pick, but Iker Casillas is the best player of the decade. The great goalkeepers of all time had to stop stiff competition.
If you stop players like Pele, Maradona, Gianni Rivera, Luigi Riva, Guiseppe Meazza, Romario, Marco van Basten, etc., on a regular basis, you deserve to be called one of the best. That was what it was like over the years.
Not all these players played at the same time, however (though there were plenty more great scorers), but Casillas is the best at a time when he has had to stop Cristiano Ronaldo (now a teammate), Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney, Ronaldinho, Alexandre Pato, Fernando Torres, Didier Drogba, Francesco Totti, Luca Toni, Alberto Gilardino, Kaka (again, a teammate now), etc. That is a heavy list of players that very few keepers can cope with.
When it comes to success and being the best at what you do, Iker Casillas is more successful and better at what he does than any soccer player in the last decade.
He was one of few rare breed of players who did exceptionally well at both club and international level. He single handedly woman Euro 2000 for France, and took them to the finals in 2006.
Had he not been red-carded, France would be 2006 winners, not Italia. He was instrumental in France’s only worldcup win in 1998, but that was another decade.
His domestic credentials are as much sparkling if not more.
League Winner for Real Madrid in 2002-03 season, picked runners up medal twice in 2005-05 and 2005-06 season, winners medal at Suercopa de Espana twice in 2001 and 2003, two Copa del Rey runners up medals in 2001 and 2003.
And who can forget that stunning volley in the Champions League final in 2001-02 season, which entitled him for a winners medal. The list goes on of his achievements.
One of only two players to have won the Fifa footballer of the year 3 times, another two time Ballon D’or winner. How can anyone else in that decade be better than Zidane?
His resume has enough achievements that some clubs don’t have in their 100-year-old history.
His accolades include (just to name few) – crucial part of Brasil’s 2002 World Cup Success; 2005 Confed Cup Victory for Brasil; 2 world player of year titles; 2 La Liga titles; 1 Champion’s League title; 3 time world-11 team.
His presence on these teams allowed Brasil and Barca to reach Olympian heights and helped Barca get to the level they are currently at right now.
Despite his form dipping the past four years, he was still quite dangerous for both AC Milan and Barcelona albeit at a more inconsistent level.
Well, there were quite a few great players during the past decade: Zidane, Xavi, Ronaldo (the Brazilian)… But in the end, the best player of the past decade has to be Lionel Messi.
The little Argentine has managed what none of those players did: at 23 many football experts already put him in the same word as Pelé and Maradona, widely considered as the best football players in history.
That said, even though I think it’s still too soon to compare Messi to Maradona, he’s certainly above anyone else who has played this decade.
The question is: if at 23 Messi is already considered by many pundits, fans and fellows players and managers as one of the best players of all-time, what will it be like when he reaches 25-27 (the age at which players usually peak)?
At this pace, Messi risks becoming the best player ever once he retires, eclipsing Pelé and his fellow countryman Maradona.
No player combines pace, skill and strength like Messi does. A strong header of the ball and an excellent reader of the game, he can legitimately claim to be the most complete player in world football.
He is also the most feared goalscorer in the world, even though he is not really a striker.
Playing on the wing and sometimes from a playmaking position, Messi scored an incredible 47 goals in 53 matches last season, to add to the 38 he had scored the season before.
He has been the Champions League top scorer for two seasons in a row. Besides, he’s the perfect team player (which is why he’s so great) and provides countless assists to his teammates.
He’s almost unstoppable and his presence alone causes havoc to the opposition.
There’s basically nothing that Messi can’t do in the football field. When he’s on his day, stopping him is a near-impossible mission.
The Argentine’s goal against Getafe in 2007 was certainly the best goal of this decade and a copy of Maradona’s goal of the century.
Right now, the only thing separating him from the likes of Pelé and Maradona is a World Cup title. He played well during the 2010 World Cup but was unable to lead Argentina to the title.
But he will have at least two more chances. In 2014, he’ll be 27, he will have peaked and he will be ready to lead his nation to World Cup glory.
It’s the only step left for Messi to take his rightful place as maybe the best football player in history. His raw talent and teamwork skills give us every reason to believe that he might do it.
It wasn’t an easy decision, but the Brazilian’s resume is just a touch more impressive than the Frenchman’s over the last decade.
During the aughts, Ronaldinho was named FIFA World Player of the Year twice (Henry twice finished second) and won the European Footballer of the Year and UEFA Club Footballer of the Year Awards (neither of which Henry won).
He was also on Brazil’s World Cup-winning side in 2002 and the Samba Kings’ Confederations Cup-winning team in 2005.
He won two La Liga titles with Barcelona and helped lead them to the Champions League crown in 2006, a game in which the Blaugrana beat Henry’s Arsenal side.
In terms of skill, they’re both ridiculously gifted … obviously. Henry is a gifted striker who can play as a playmaker and Ronaldinho is more of a playmaker who can score goals.
And that versatility makes them both valuable, but I think that Ronaldinho’s style and creativity—especially at a time when those things are lacking in the European game—makes him my pick.
Ronaldo had unique skills; skills which very few centre-forwards possess today.
He could score when a defender or a keeper had a momentary lapse of concentration or otherwise use some exquisite skills to beat them. He was also calm and took beautiful penalties.
Thierry Henry wins my vote because, quite simply, of his consistent ability to win football matches.
He could score (249 goals in all competitions in the last 10 seasons), he could make the final pass (107 assists in all competitions in the last 10 seasons), and he could draw defenders out of position with intelligent runs.
He not only scored, but he dazzled. Henry could pick the ball up at midfield, run past half a dozen defenders, and slot the ball into the corner of the net. And he made it look almost effortless.
Even when Arsenal switched to a 4-5-1 formation in Europe during the ’05-’06 season, Henry re-invented himself.
Up until that point he had always played as the second striker, drifting out to the left and then sprinting at pace towards goal with the ball.
Once deployed as a lone striker, however, Henry showed that he had plenty of strength to go with his pace.
He held the ball up, brought his teammates into the attack, and did everything (bar winning headers) that a classic center-forward is expected to do.
So, why was Thierry Henry the greatest footballer of the past decade? I suppose that I have three primary reasons.
He was consistent in his production over the course of the decade, he adapted to the role handed to him and was more than a one-trick pony, and he scored goals that simply took the breath away.
To watch his run and goal against Tottenham is to be impressed.
To watch his flick and volley against Manchester United is to be in awe.
To see his solo effort against Real Madrid is to see all of the qualities–pace, strength, technique, and composure–that made him one of the greatest strikers to have ever graced a football pitch.
Reasons – The way he has developed from a kid in 2003 to 2010 is pretty phenomenal. Not only does he mesmerize the opponents on the pitch, but he also is a great role model for a lot of people around.
His 90 goals for Barcelona has been really a great exhibition of skill and finishing abilities.
Even after all that he is just 23. He has been a great entertainer and one of major reasons why Barcelona is looked at with such awe.
He may have made his mark more significantly in the past three years only, but then as a prodigy and genius, no one arguably had a better three-year spell in the last decade as compared to him.
Perhaps regarded as one of the wizards of modern football, the Brazilian midfielder mesmerized us all with his footballing skills.
During the middle of the past decade, the 32-year-old AC Milan player gave the world a taste of what pure samba football means with his dribbles and dodges.
The 30-year-old has been prolific during the past decade winning La Liga twice in 2005 and 2006 (maximum contribution for which goes to him), the UEFA Champions League, Ballon d'Or and has been twice selected FIFA World Player of the Year (2005 and 2006). He is a legend in Barcelona, where he was at his prime.
He has also helped the Samba boys to the 2002 FIFA World Cup, where his awesome free-kick helped his country progress past England.
He has been bit off-color though after arriving at AC Milan but nonetheless he still is a feared midfielder in modern football.
A Youngster Whom You Think Has Potential To Be Like Him
Michael Steele/Getty Images
Callum D' Souza
Arsenal young gun Sanchez Watts looms as a potential Henry. They are similar styles and like Henry, Watts has started as a winger.
I think that Yoann Gourcuff could be the next Zidane. Obviously both are French and Gourcuff is Zidane’s replacement for the French national team.
But at the end of the day, we will never see another Zinedine Zidane. He was a once-in-a-generation player.
Roberto Alvarez- Galloso
This is a question that has yet to be answered since Messi is almost a newcomer.
It would take time before we can talk about today’s youngsters having the potential to be like him.
I remember seeing the youth of Miami Florida talking about Messi and wanting to imitate him in the field and off the field.
This is a good sign taking into account the footballers/soccer players who have tarnished the sport with their behavior such as the French Football/Soccer players who dared to show disrespect for their coach, team, and country during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Many of the youngsters who practice football/soccer in Miami Florida that I have interviewed in order to answer this question stated that between Messi and Anelka or Zidane, they prefer Messi. I also have the same impression about Messi.
Honestly none of today’s youngsters have potential to be great like Paolo Maldini.
I seriously thought that Matteo Darmian, from AC Milan youth academy but I was wrong as he didn’t get the chance in Milan and he was loaned out or did co-ownership with Palermo.
In my heart I really believe that my 12 years old brother, Vinko Soldo who currently plays for best Croatian club, Dinamo Zagreb has huge potential to be like Maldini.
There will never be a goalkeeper to match Casillas, but Joe Hart is the best young goalie in the world in my opinion.
The 23 year old was City’s number one goalkeeper from 2007 to 2009 before the arrival of Shay Given, upon which he was loaned to Birmingham City where he played very well.
Upon his return to the Citizens for this season, he quickly took the place of Given. Hart is a star in the making.
In eight matches in England and Europe so far this season, Hart has conceded only two goals: one in a draw with Blackburn and the other in City’s only loss against Sunderland.
Fabio Capello may be calling upon Hart more often in the future, as England moves towards Euro 2012 and the 2014 World Cup.
With goalkeeping a big concern as of late for the Three Lions as well as Manchester City’s rise up the European ladder, which may put them in the Champions League in coming seasons, Hart could be in prime position to establish himself as a dominant keeper on the world stage.
Right now for me I only see Francesc Fabregas to be someone near to having the abilities and guile that Zidane possessed.
We all know that Xavi’s days at Barcelona are almost out numbered. In future if he goes to Barcelona, then he could emulate the success that Zidane enjoyed both at club and country.
Today – Lionel Messi and CR7 probably are the likely candidates to top the best player in the world charts over the 2010’s.
My darkhorse candidate is another attacking midfielder who like Ronaldinho spent his early years in Ligue 1 – Eden Hazard – be on the lookout for him!
As far as I’m concerned, Messi is a once-in-a-generation player and there won’t be another like him any time soon. When Maradona retired, many players were tipped as potential heirs, but only 20 years later did Messi appear. The same will happen in Messi’s case: an heir won’t appear so soon.
Still, there are many talented players in the new generation who haven’t showed all their potential yet: Alexandre Pato, Sergio Aguero (Messi’s fellow countryman), Brazilian new stars Neymar and Paulo Henrique Ganso, Javier Hernandez…
All these players have great talent and, even though I don’t believe they’ll reach Messi’s otherworldly level, they have everything it takes to be world beaters and play an important in the next decade of football.
Well, Ronaldinho is a pretty unique player, especially with the aforementioned skill, style and creativity. But if there’s one player in the world who can step into that sort of role, it’s pretty clearly Lionel Messi.
With the ball at his feet, he’s among the best in the world. His best position is as an attacking midfielder just behind the striker. He’s simply filthy when it comes to free kicks. And for all of his success and financial security, he’s a pretty goofy looking dude.
Another player who could potentially evolve into that kind of player is young Frenchman Yoann Gourcuff, a super-skilled 24-year-old currently playing for Olympique Lyonnais, although he doesn’t yet have the scoring prowess of either Ronaldinho or Messi.
Not many of today’ s youngsters have a skill set similar to Ronaldo’s. Due to the difference in the role of a centre-forward between now and in previous years, I can’t really name a youngster who is similar to him.
I think that it is difficult to pick a youngster who can emulate Henry because football has already changed so much (weird to say, I know).
With the relative demise of the 4-4-2, it is unlikely that we’ll see a player like Henry for quite awhile.
He was very much a second striker, and we simply don’t see that position very much anymore. He played on the left wing at Barcelona, and I suppose that we can use that as a guide.
When talking about wide-players who score goals, two really have to come to mind, and they are, in my opinion, the two best footballers in the world right now.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are different from Henry in terms of overall style (and we can argue ability all day long, something that I don’t care to do), but the results are really pretty similar. They all score a lot of goals and make a good number of assists.
Looking for younger players (or players that aren’t already widely considered world-class), Theo Walcott tends to jump to mind.
I think that that’s a bit unfair, however, as Walcott doesn’t have nearly the technique, strength, or vision that Henry does (though I disagree with commentators who claim that he doesn’t have a “football brain”).
One player who stands out, and I think that this might be a bit controversial to some, is Gael Kakuta.
He’s a bit smaller than Henry, but the couple of times that I’ve seen him play, his composure in front of goal has impressed me. He has talent on the ball, and he seems to be a weird kind of winger/striker hybrid, kind of like Henry.
Is he going to be as good as Henry? I doubt it, but he’s young, so who knows. He does remind me of Henry in terms of style and composure, however.
Well , he is a youngster even now if you see that he is just 23. However, if you ask whether anybody younger could match him.
I’d say at the moment only one boy comes to mind and he is the so called “german-messi” or Marko Marin of Werder Bremen. The kid is 21 and talented.
There are many talented youngsters now, even Gareth Bale and Mario Balotelli are very good prospects in my eyes, but then as you have asked for the potential to be like Messi,
I thought Marin may be quite good. Whether he will be good enough remains to be seen.
It is very difficult to find someone as gifted as him in today's youngsters. There are numerous youngsters who have lots of talents and plenty of promise.
But I can think of only one name who comes close to the Brazilian football sorcerer. It is Lionel Messi.
The immensely gifted Argentine reminds me of Ronaldinho in his prime days as he scuttles past baffled opposition defenders. His dribbles and foot-works are plain awesome and have no comparison.
He is still very young, but has achieved much though in a short spell. He looks to be the Ronaldinho or even something greater of his generation.